There and Back Again, at HERMES


There and Back Again seems an apt title for the July Hermes group exhibition, in which I’m showing alongside Andrew Hunt, Ursula Johnson, Adriana Kuiper & Ryan Suter. The drawings I’m showing are three attempts to work through an image that obsessed me in the studio in Paris. Basket for Marjolin and Cadine I, II, & III begin to work through an image of a basket of feathers from Le Ventre de Paris.

In this naturalist novel by Emile Zola, Ragamuffin market orphans return to a basket of plucked feathers to sleep curled together. Perhaps informed by reading and re-reading of Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, for me the image of this nest of feathers stands-in for several social rituals. Initially a site of innocent sleep, the space becomes a place for seduction, then violence, then ultimately control, and defeat. The dynamic between these two characters strikes me as an allegory for more complex relationships (both individual and societal). Though only a tiny corner of the narrative, this image occupied significant space in my experience of that novel.

Still employing the drawing tactics of Faisan, these drawings are a slight departure from the series as a whole. It is, however, an opportunity to explore the violence inherent in the plucking process, without losing the whole project to it. Just as Faisan is about much more than the cracked feathers, the pulled flesh, and spots of blood, their basket too, contains more than simply one act of violence.

As I’m not entirely sure what is so captivating about this image, I’ve started by simply revisiting the image through drawing. At the moment, I feel as if I’m searching out the symbolic, rather than narrative component of my interest in the image.